Posts by marcustaylor:
- Selling music is a historical habit, which made sense when it cost money to duplicate and share music – nowadays it doesn’t.
- Selling music will create an income stream for you, but it will cut off bigger income streams.
- Pro Tools / M-audio Software & Interface = £49
- Blue Snowball USB Condensor Microphone = £57
- AKG K44 Closed Headphones = £21
- M-audio Oxygen 25 Midi Controller = £56
This is a guest post by Marcus Taylor, founder of TheMusiciansGuide.co.uk
With what seems like an unlimited variety of services, and an ever-increasing number of spin-off services and replicas of popular music marketing tools, which ones should we be focusing on in 2013?
The only way to accurately answer this question would be to take an aggregate vote from artists, labels, and anyone involved with music marketing and then look at the highest scoring services. Over the next few weeks I’m going to be doing exactly that with The 2013 Music Marketing Report (you can contribute to the report & sign up for a free copy of it via that link). But who are our contenders?
Here are my predictions.
An obvious choice, really, but Reverbnation have created an exceptional set of fundamental music marketing tools. Their distribution, EPKs, and Promote It! services prove that they ‘get’ the challenges of DIY artists, and their popularity certainly backs this up; hundreds of thousands of artists use their tools, which probably suggests they won’t be going anywhere any time soon.
Despite having over 500,000 users, Bandpage are still relatively understated for a music marketing giant, but I’ve got a lot of faith that this is going to be a big year for them. Having just detached from Facebook, they’re tackling some big emerging issues in music marketing and they appear to be doing it very well, in my opinion.
Given that Facebook is one of the most popular social media platforms to market music, I believe Bandpage’s toolkit for helping artist’s leverage opportunities within Facebook will become especially valuable, and an integral part to many artist’s social media strategy.
The D2F platform Topspin is going from strength to strength, and just like Bandpage they appear to be working very hard on the issue of simplifying music marketing by integrating existing music marketing services together. Their move into music streaming with Beats Electronics, and their toolkit partnership with PledgeMusic, Artist Growth, Ingrooves, and FireBrand suggests that they may quite possible become an increasingly popular paid marketing tool for artists.
4. Mobile Roadie
In my opinion, mobile app makers Mobile Roadie don’t get enough good praise for the excellent work they’re doing in music marketing. Their free mobile sites, and paid apps are absolutely stunning and have helped many established artists achieve some pretty incredible things with mobile marketing. I think we might see Mobile Roadie move a little bit more into the mainstream / DIY market this year as smartphone adoption continues to increase, thus boosting the importance of having a band mobile app.
5. Story Amp
When I first saw Story Amp, I have to admit I didn’t have much faith in the service, but I’ll eat my words – it’s awesome. I think 2013 will be a year where far more artists begin to use StoryAmp to communicate with journalists. At $30/month their premium option seems like a steal.
Which paid music marketing services do you think will be a hit in 2013? If you’re interested in contributing your ideas on the 2013 Music Marketing Annual Report, you’ll receive a free copy of the report when it’s finished.
Based on your last gig, how many merchandise transactions did you sell? How many people attended the gig? And finally, what was your average order value (how much did you make per sale, on average)?
These three questions will allow you to identify opportunities to earn more from your merchandise at shows.For example sake, let’s say you answered 40, 400, and $10.
Improving your conversion rate
Let’s start off by working out your ‘conversion rate’ and then considering how you could increase it and what affect that may have. To find out your conversion rate we divide 400 (total audience) by 100 (percent), and then divide the 40 sales by the answer (4).
e.g. 40/(400/100) = 10%
This means that ten percent of the audience is buying your merch. Increasing this to 20% doubles your income – so how can you increase it to 20%?
• Improve your offer – offer a product that fans really want.
• Communicate the offer better – rather than saying what it is (e.g. a band t-shirt) explain why they should buy it (e.g. to support the band and share the music that they enjoy with others).
• Add a sense of urgency to what you’re selling – for example; offer limited edition merchandise, or an offer that lasts for 1 hour only.
Increasing your average order value
So let’s say that on average each paying custom pays you $10. If you could increase that average order value to $20, you’ll have doubled your income. Here’s how you might do just that.
• Bundle your products – if you’re selling a CD for $9 and a t-shirt for $10, why not sell a CD & t-shirt bundle for $15. This means that rather than spending $9 or $10, it’s very cost effective to spend $5-6 more and get both!
• Increase the price of your products – if your most popular product costs $10, try charging $15 for it. As long as you get less than a 33% drop off in sales for that product, you will be making more profit per sale than before.
• Offer premium products – a lot of research has suggested that by simply having expensive options to choose from, people are more likely to spend more money, even if no-one actually chooses the expensive option. By having a mega-limited edition vinyl of your album on sale for $150 and an offer to spend dinner with the band for $400 on display, you other products listed at $10 and $20 will seem like a bargain.
Increasing your audience size
If ten percent of your audience buys merchandise then that’s 40 sales for a 400 person audience, but 100 sales to a 1,000 person audience. By performing larger gigs, you’ll increase your potential to reach a larger audience who may buy your products.
There are a lot of good books and blogs out there with tips on booking bigger shows such as Book Your Band by Chris Jackson, and this post that I wrote a few years back. Also, if you are looking to book bigger gigs, you may find this deal particularly helpful, as it includes a range of guides and resources at a huge discount – although the offer is only available for 100 hours so be quick!
There we have it – the three ways to earn more income from merchandise at your gigs are to increase your conversion rate by sharpening your offer, increase your average order value through bundling or price increases, and finally increasing your audience size by being selective about the types of gigs you perform. Of course, the best option is to pursue all three of these opportunities!
This guest post is written by Marcus Taylor, founder of TheMusiciansGuide.co.uk. On January 7th, The Musician’s Guide are hosting an epic deal to get over £239 worth of music promotion tools for just £24.99. Event is sponsored by All Earplugs, Vistaprint, Music Law Contracts, and Mobile Roadie.
Image Credit: Jnxyz
When starting a band, few people stop to consider the practical or legal issues which are involved.
Although it may not always feel necessary at the beginning of a musical career to ensure that the finer details of payment and royalties are set out in black and white, continuing on without a contract that every member is in agreement with can lead to disputes further down the line, causing irreconcilable differences and often breakups.
Such problems appear within bands who are looking for success, but also with those who have already found it. Despite achieving great fame, The Beach Boys could not resolve their arguments without taking legal action, which resulted in band members suing each other over song writing credits.
Spandau Ballet were another popular band that were torn apart by money differences. These also lead to a court case between members. Issues with contracts such as these and the vast amounts of money they concern can cause such rifts between band members that they never work together again.
Such issues can continue even after a band has split up, as was the case with The Smiths and Frank Zappa, who faced a law suit from his former band mates over what they claimed to be $12 million in unpaid royalties.
Credence Clearwater Revival split up over the many differences they had which they could not work out themselves. This band constantly fought over how much input each member had, who was in charge, pay, and what creative directions they went in. Issues with contracts can also lead to rifts between bands and their record labels often meaning that a band cannot produce music or receive payments because of legal ties.
Both the Stone Roses and Pink Floyd have had issues with their record labels as a result of contracts and in the case of the Stone Roses, this stopped them being able to release further music for years. Such disputes and confusion amongst band members can be avoided by making sure that during the early stages of the band’s career a band partnership contract that all band members are happy with and agreed upon is drawn up and signed so that certain issues and boundaries are set out in clear, precise terms.
Signing a contract can encourage a band’s longevity, as is the case with U2 who have a written contract in place and have remained together for 36 years.
This is a guest post by Marcus Taylor, founder of TheMusiciansGuide.co.uk, a website that helps DIY musicians find resources such as music business contracts to help them succeed in the music business.
There’s been no shortage of discussion on the topic of selling vs. offering music for free over the years, and while I don’t expect this article to even come close to settling that debate, I thought I’d share my views anyway.
I’ve summed up my arguments into two bullet points, which are:
Selling music is a historical habit
Ask yourself – why should we sell our music? Any of the usual answers boil down to the fact that it’s traditional / it’s what we grew up knowing is normal. The thing is, everything we grew up with being normal has changed – it no longer costs thousands to share music, and music can now be produced at a fraction of the cost it used to.
I don’t need to tell you the changes the music business has gone through over the past 20 years, but what you do need to consider is that these changes require a change in mindsets – we don’t need to charge money to share our music (i.e. we don’t lose money by someone sharing an MP3), we just want to because it seems usual.
Selling music will create an income stream for you, but it will cut off bigger ones
Selling an MP3 for £0.99 is like going to a networking event and charging people to accept your business card – sure, you make a little bit of many from people who really want to get in touch with you, but you cut off much bigger revenue streams from people who don’t want to pay you.
It seems too obvious to say that if you could give out 2,000,000 business cards to potential customers for free, you’d end up better off than the competitor who gave out 200 business cards, selling each one for £0.99.
This may seem like an extreme and over dramatic example, in some senses it is, but the point is that IF you are able to offer more valuable services (touring, merchandise, licensing, sponsorship) then your music is the best business card you can offer to acquire those bigger deals. Of course, going into the studio, rehearsing new songs, and distributing your music costs money that you’d like to recoup – but as does printing business cards – if you’re serious about your music, you’ll see these costs as an investment in increasing your chance of attaining bigger deals.
Just ask yourself – would you rather work on getting your band’s name on 2,000,000 iPod Touches or 2,000? Which is going to earn you more in experience, money, and opportunities?
Image Credit: bstabler
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll most likely be familiar with Amanda Palmer’s impressive KickStarter campaign (she’s raised over $750,000 through the crowd-funding platform). At risk of being ‘one more to add to the list’, I want to focus on what we can learn from her and what the success of her campaign suggests to me about how music fans are showing cravings for exclusivity.
Amanda’s campaign teaches us the importance of building an army over time, being authentic, and trying innovative and unconventional means of promoting music, but I think one of the most valuable lesson we can learn from Amanda is that fans are willing to pay a heck of a lot for something a little bit special i.e. something not mass-produced.
The problem is that most artists have adopted a ‘mass-production mindset’. By default, we think “how can we create the same CD / MP3 and get it to the highest number of listeners?” or “How can we perform gigs to a larger audience?” and while exclusivity is nothing new to musicians (limited editions merchandise and private shows have been milked for decades), I’m beginning to think that the increased accessibility to exclusivity through online services like KickStarter.com and Stageit.com is increasing its demand. Even Twitter is having a significant impact on shaping fan’s expectations – we now expect to be able to get to know the artists we love and interact with them personally and exclusively.
I’m not saying that you should go ahead and turn down the stadium concert to perform an exclusive streamed show from your kitchen, but what I am saying is that by focusing your attention on deepening relationships with a few fans, you may end up better off than if you try to capture huge quantities of casual fans.
From a solely financial perspective, if you had just 20 fans who were willing to pay $5,000 to have you play in their living room, you’ll end up with more in the bank than the band with 90,000 casual fans who pay $1 to download their single. Of course that’s an extreme scenario, and one of the ironies of focusing on deepening relationships with a relatively small number of fans is that it tends to increase the number of ‘casual fans’ anyway, but hopefully you see my point.
If you’re not convinced that loyal fans will invest heavily in exclusivity, then why would 35 people pay $5,000 to get Amanda Palmer to play in their living rooms when they can go and see her for $20? Why would hundreds of her fans pay $200+ just to get a signed copy of her album & artwork? Those fans are not paying a premium for convenience; they’re paying a premium for exclusivity, and a massive one at that.
You don’t need a KickStarter Campaign to Offer Your Exclusivity
I have to give Chris Jackson full credit for this tip. Chris and I were having a Skype call last week when the Amanda Palmer story came into conversation. Chris made a really good point that lots of bands are rushing to create their own Kickstarter campaigns offering exclusive products and services, but exclusivity is something you can offer all year round, without KickStarter.
Sure, a sense of urgency helps, and Kickstarter.com sure does make it easy to set up, but why not offer living room performances and YouTube recordings personalised to specific fans as a service – in the same way that you offer regular gigs as a service? If there’s demand for those services, you have an opportunity to supply and benefit from it. Make your exclusivity accessible without compromising its exclusivity and you’ll be onto a winner.
As always, I’d be interested in hearing the other side of the coin and any arguments for why musicians shouldn’t offer their exclusivity as a service. If you have any thoughts or anything you’d like to add, please leave them in the comments below – or you can contact me personally on Twitter @themusicguide.
When pro audio gear reached the masses seven or eight years ago, the ‘home studio’ dream was born for tens of thousands of musicians all around the world. A couple of years later many of the leading manufacturers of recording gear such as Mackie and Motu started catering to the nomadic musicians and the touring artist with portable gear.
A few days ago I was asked a question that got me thinking, the question was “if you only had £250 to set up a studio that was portable but beyond demo quality, what would you spend it on?” I did some browsing and came up with a possible solution.
First of all, I’m assuming that you already have a laptop, so I won’t include that in the price. I will also clarify that £250 is an incredibly low budget for this kind of operation, but I think it is possibly nowadays to build a reasonably good quality basic setup on this budget (just about)! Studio gear is also a very personal preference, so you may have had bad experiences with some of the gear i’ve suggested – if so, share them in the comments as I’d be keen to hear similar good alternatives that I haven’t considered.
The Software & Interface
A good sequencer and interface is the heart of your setup, so it pays to get this one right. Most sequencers offer a free limited special edition version, which often comes free with recording equipment, such as microphones. While there are several completely free options available like Audacity and Garageband, using a professional solution like Cubase, Logic, or Pro Tools is a wise foundation to build upon.
This essential recording studio package from Pro Tools and M Audio is just under £50 and includes Pro Tools software and a sufficiently high quality interface to connect your instrument or microphone to the computer with. If you need to upgrade to a 2-track interface, there is also a 2-track model available for just £15 extra.
Depending on what you’re recording, you’ll most likely want a good condenser microphone to record vocals, and possibly guitars. Although the M-audio / Pro Tools pre amp does feature an XLR input for microphone, I’d recommend a good USB microphone such as the Blue Yeti or Snowball, both of which cost less than £75
You probably won’t have the luxury of being able to carry a good set of studio monitors around with you as a part of your portable studio, so it’s important to invest in a good set of headphones. To compensate for the lack of a pair of accurate sounding speakers, you may want to go for the industry standard Beyerdynamic DT-100s, which retail for around £100. However, AKG and Sennheiser both offer reasonable quality studio headphones for under £30 (the AKG K44s, and the Sennheiser HD 201s).
The Midi Controller
If you’re doing any kind of electronic music programming, you’re going to want a midi controler. Although there are a range of ‘roll up midi keyboards’ designed for portability, I’d recommend going for an inexpensive small 25-key midi keyboard with a sufficient velocity control. The M-audio Oxygen 25 or the Alesis Q25 are both good options around £50. If you are using midi, remember to set aside an extra £20 or so for a USB midi interface.
Although this setup is incredibly basic, it’ll fit in a backpack and sufficiently be able to record and program your music while you’re on the go all for less than £250. Here’s the breakdown:
The total cost is £183, leaving a good £80 left over to invest in your favourite plugins or samples, both of which can be picked up for cheap second-hand on eBay. So there you have it, a fully functional and reasonably good quality portable recording studio for under £250. What would you buy if you had that budget to spend on creating a portable studio?
Whether you’re a signed or unsigned musician, getting a gig at a festival can massively raise your profile. In the UK, there are many opportunities for up and coming musicians to get booked at festivals, something that can launch your career to a new level.
An organised press kit, demo CD and social media presence are a must. If your press kit interests the booker, they then go online get a better feel for your music. When applying for festivals, you’ve got to match your music to the ‘feel’ of the event. If you don’t fit in with the genre of the festival, you’re unlikely to get booked.
Once you’ve sent off your press kit, be sure to follow it up with a phone call. Building your contact network like this is also valuable, and can put your music into the right hands. If you’re a signed band, getting a touring manager can help you to organise the logistics of getting gigs. Equally, going through a booking agent is the norm once your band has reached a certain level. The UK’s largest festivals (Reading festival and Leeds festival) for example, don’t mind dealing directly with musicians – but those that have reached the level to play there overwhelmingly use booking agents.
Find the Opportunities
The best way to get booked at major festivals is to take advantage of the opportunities for up and coming bands. One way of getting a foot on the ladder is by getting involved with BBC Introducing, which supports artists that fly ‘under the radar’. By uploading your material onto the BBC Introducing site, it could be played on local BBC Introducing shows – or even be broadcast nationally. Many artists have been booked on the BBC Introducing stage at Reading, Leeds, and Glastonbury through this process.
If your band is based in the North West, you can also enter the Futuresound competition. By showcasing local music talent through a battle of the bands style competition, this gives the opportunity for musicians to bring their material to a wider audience. The ultimate prize is a place on the Festival Republic Stage at Leeds and Reading festival. The five runners up will also perform on the BBC Introducing stage at both venues.
If you’re an up and coming artist, getting booked at a major festival is a real possibility – so long as you get organised, network and make the most of the opportunities available.
This guest post was written by Marcus Taylor, founder of TheMusiciansGuide.co.uk, a UK music promotion website that offers resources to help musicians succeed in the music business.